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Social stigma adds misery to lives of Ebola survivors, RT documentary shows

Social stigma adds misery to lives of Ebola survivors, RT documentary shows
After surviving Ebola, hundreds of people in Sierra Leone are fighting an uphill battle to get their lives back on track. The stigma of being a survivor makes the burdens of poverty and shortage of opportunities much harsher.

The Ebola outbreak of 2014-2016 took a heavy toll on several sub-Saharan African nations, with the epidemic amplified by larger migration compared to previous outbreaks. In Sierra Leone, a small nation of about 7 million, some 14,000 people contracted the often deadly disease. About 10,000 of them survived, usually while simultaneously losing many loved ones to the same sickness.

But surviving Ebola was only the beginning of the ordeal for many, as an RT documentary crew found out. With their lives already disrupted, people struck by Ebola face ostracism and isolation in their communities. They have trouble finding jobs or a place to stay. Their homes are sometimes set on fire - out of fear of the disease. Even buying food may be a challenge, as some vendors won’t take their money, claiming the virus may be in their sweat.

Acceptance is difficult to find, and sometimes it comes at a price for those who are willing to show it. RT spoke to a man, who defied the social stigma and married a woman who lost her husband and four children to the virus. Now he feels it too, losing a job at a workshop and forced to work as a sand miner in the bush area, where the peer pressure is less heavy.

“When we were in the center of the town it was a bit better. But since we came here just for her to avoid stigmatization, things are not that good,” he acknowledged.

People who survive Ebola often suffer from long-term health problems. Others tend to see any sickness as a possible resurgence of the virus. A football team comprised of survivors – which was meant to oppose the stigma – saw a major setback when a player fainted during a match. Spectators ran away in fear and the land owner ousted them from the field afterwards.

Learn about these and other stories in RT’s new documentary ‘Ebola: Surviving Survival’.

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